Atheism And Your
Approach To It!
Michael Yoder

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Michael Yoder"
Subject: Re: Atheism and your approach to it!
Date: October 08, 2001 9:29 PM

Who is against prayer or the attempted invocation of imaginary deities? Perhaps some other web sites, but not us. Had you spent much time on our web site at all, you would have seen this.

The worthiness we posit is in our humanity, not our atheism. The atheism that we describe is simply a way for us to distinguish ourselves from theists. It is in our humanity that all our value lies. For this reason, we'd just as soon get along with theists than distinguish ourselves from them, but the sad truth is that we often see a need to distinguish ourselves from theists and thus use the word atheism for this purpose.

Positive Atheism is a specific subset of atheism, a specific philosophy, which originates from India. As we have been advocating it thus far, Positive Atheism places a very high value on the ethics of truthfulness and self-consistency. We suggest that atheists will never overcome the bigotry and stigma leveled against us unless atheists on a wide scale adopt at least these two ethics and place the pursuit of other ethics as a high priority as well. Positive Atheism, as we have advocated it thus far, also strongly recommends using the "weak" or "negative" definition for the word atheism when describing the overall big-picture atheism (although we urge individuals to pursue either the "strong" or "weak" approach as suits them). But by popularizing the "weak" definition for atheism, as it describes the overall big picture of atheism we can take all the bark out of those who would slander and denigrate us, and leave open many doors for learning how to get along in this culture that has been hostile to atheism and nontheism for thousands of years.
 

We still think you have written to the wrong web site, but I cannot really tell because I'm not very clear as to what you're trying to say, here.

Simple English, please?

May we suggest describing what you are saying, rather than assuming that we all have the same definitions for the emotionally charged buzzwords found in abundance in writings that come from the soft end of the University.

Then, if our very cheap translation software is any indication, we still think you've written to the wrong web site. You are invited to show us wrong in this by pulling quotes of our editorial position (the FAQ; the responses to the Letters; the monthly column) which you feel show us to be as you describe (but please describe using language we all can understand). Simply making bald assertions doesn't cut it around here -- even if we know what you're trying to say.
 

Again, we don't see it (but once again, we really don't quite understand precisely what it is that you mean to convey with this sentence).

Attacking religion? That's not us! Nothing could be further from the truth! Responding to god-claims is one thing, but we have yet to engage in open, indiscriminate, gratuitous attacks of religion. Rather, we openly advocate that atheists presuppose that all theists have (or think they have) valid reasons for believing the way they do, and we advocate this in the interest of trying to reduce the very charge you're leveling against us. Please give us examples of us committing this crime against humanity.

Advocating popularism? I have no clue what you might be talking about, as Microsoft® Encarta® World English Dictionary does not even carry this word. Please give us examples of what popularism is. Then, please explain to us what is so utterly evil about popularism. Finally, please provide examples of us committing that crime against humanity.
 

I say: Noun, verb, adjective. If you cannot find the word in a basic English-as-second-language vocabulary book, seriously consider using a different word -- or, better yet, simply describe what you are saying rather than depending so heavily on Soft Studies jargon.

I say: If the words you are using flag the Microsoft® spell checker (e.g., popularism, joinder), definitely toss them unless you are willing to provide a glossary at the end of your work. (Also be aware that some of us won't even waste our time with works that require a glossary, preferring, instead, the works of a skilled writer.)

This way, more will be able to understand what you are even saying, and even those who did spend any time at the soft end will be more likely to accurately translate what you write into something that they can understand.

As it stands, we cannot distinguish you from the theist who writes to us using cryptic religious metaphor intertwined with bold-sounding assertions but is unwilling to commit to something in plain English. Chest-pounding is chest-pounding regardless of its perspective; jumping up and down is jumping up and down no matter what trick one uses to make his point difficult to ttrack down and
 

Make your point so that a teenager in Africa, studying English as her seventh tongue, can understand what you are saying without having to consult the dictionary more than two or three times per paragraph (if that). Not everybody lives in The Netherlands and thus not everybody has a flawless command of the English language.

Understand that we are here primarily to learn, primarily to gather information. If we happen upon something that we find interesting, we offer it to the readers as food for thought. Likewise, if enough readers respond to a certain item, we can justify taking a closer look at it (that is, spurring further discussion around that idea).

To do this, we must toss around many ideas and we state those ideas in terms that almost anybody can understand.

Also understand that we fall not for the canard that Western culture is superior to anything: we presuppose that we can learn a lot from just about anybody who bothers to write to us -- but only so long as that writer makes a concerted effort to be understood.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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